I am really enjoying this class and loving the papers I get to write for it. Here is another one I'm proud of:
For most of my life, the terminologies “self-understanding” and “self-esteem” were something I understood on some level in my brain, but didn’t understand as an overall concept. When people would talk to me about these concepts or ask me if I had good self-esteem, I would stare at them blankly, having no idea if I did or did not. In reading our text, the definition of self-esteem helped me to understand that self-esteem is actually how I view myself as a whole. (Santrock, 2008, p. 395)
The definition of self-understanding, however, was seemingly vague and I had to really ponder what it meant for me as I contemplated the words: “the cognitive representation of the self, the substance of self-conceptions.” (Santrock, 2008, p. 388) When I read that, I stared at the book for quite some time without any understanding of what it meant. I appreciated the examples as I read on and came to realize that self-understanding is how I categorize the roles I play in the world: I am a daughter, a sister, a mother, a dancer, a student, a teacher, a healer, an adult, etc.
When I was eight years old, I believed that my world was perfect and, for the most part, it was. It wasn’t until I got to be in my late 30’s that I began seeing that life was not as perfect as I thought it was. While I did not suffer from abuse, neglect or unkindness, both of my parents had as children. They each made a conscious choice to treat their children differently and therefore my siblings and I were simmered in an atmosphere of love and safety.
However, as I have grown up, I've exhibited signs of childhood abuse. This has led me down a very curious path of discovery and has helped me to develop some intensive healing work for my clients. In the process of self-discovery in the last decade, I have asked myself several times about my self-esteem, self-love and self-understanding at various stages in my life.
What I’ve come to understand is that, as an eight year old, my life WAS divine. I was loved. I was cared for. I had a roof over my head and a bed in which I slept safely at night. I had food in my belly and plenty in the cupboards. I was enrolled in dance and witnessed my parents supporting my siblings and me in whatever we chose to do. At eight, I was the epitome of self-love. I thought I was a pretty cool kid. My self-esteem was high, but I didn’t really know who I was. I had self-understanding in that I was able to see and understand the categories in which I fit – daughter, sister, dancer, student, etc – but I had no idea who I was outside those labels and had an innate feeling that I was more than what the labels indicated.
Not knowing who I was continued on throughout my life, as did the feeling that I was more than my labels. As a teenager, I deeply disliked myself. Fourteen years old, for me, was a tumultuous, painful period of my life. I felt like an outcast and never fit in with the girls in my new neighborhood. They all had boyfriends. No boys liked me and, instead, they teased or ignored me. I was short and my body was curvaceous. My friends’ bodies were lengthy and tiny. I felt fat and ugly and unwanted. My self-love was at an all-time low, as was my self-esteem. Although I still was very conscious of my categories – student, daughter, sister, dancer, in puberty, etc – there was an underlying current of “misfit” in every aspect of my life. There was no way I could have understood myself and neither could anyone around me.
Today, around 28 years later, I would say that the last 13 years have taught me who I am and I’ve developed a self-understanding that is the foundation of who I am now. This self-understanding has created ground from which I can build self-love and self-trust and it is more than the categories with which I identify for my life. I’ve found a deep, soul-level understanding of myself that goes beyond the boundaries of earthly categories and labels. I understand myself and I utterly love the woman I am and the journey that I have travelled to become this woman. While I’ve done a lot in my life that many people did not understand, I’m grateful for every step of the way and esteem myself for being brave enough to become the woman I am.